4 steps for overwhelmed accountants to survive and thrive

Ashley Leeds, Head of Growth at The Accountants Millionaires Club, shares how to beat the overwhelm of isolation, remote working, and financial crisis.

How are you getting on in this pandemic? 

Are you feeling overwhelmed and like you just want to shut the door on the world? 

I frequently talk to small accountants who are not members of our club, and I see many who are struggling at this crazy time.  It’s often the person who set up a small practice as a side hustle to help friends and then got busier with word of mouth so left the day job and now has a practice.

If you are overwhelmed and have too much work, it is so easy for the crisis to become an excuse. It’s so easy not to bother with marketing or reaching out to clients.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Even with too much to do, you can free up some time to get things done and relieve the pressure and maybe even get some new clients.

So, how can you get out of this situation?

You need to: plan, get a routine and have some processes.

But first, there is an essential step you mustn’t overlook. You need to look after yourself.

Step 1 – take care of yourself

I have been here too. You have so much work you feel there’s no option but to power through until it’s done. 

However, until you look after yourself, you’ll struggle to see a way through things. 

Improve the environment

Make sure your work environment is conducive to work.  I appreciate that we are making do and maybe working from a dining table, but you need to have a set-up that’s comfortable. 

Can you pop to your office and get your chair?  Could you even return to the office for a couple of days a week?

You also need to take regular breaks. It’s easy to say, and even easier to ignore.

But if you don’t do this, you’ll become less productive and your problems will be exacerbated. 

Plan your well-being

Make sure that you get at least a 20-minute walk at lunchtime, more if you can.  Also, plan to get away from the desk and do something that you enjoy. 

For me, this has been playing my guitar. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as it takes you away from it all and releases endorphins. That way you’ll be refreshed and ready for the afternoon stint.

Drink water often. I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s good for you. And if you drink a lot of water, then you’ll need to visit the bathroom more often.  Make a point of using the facilities on a different floor, so getting up and using the stairs.

Finally, reach out to someone who can help, it could be a family member, a colleague or maybe one of your peers.  By just having a chat and sharing how you feel you’ll have another viewpoint and things will not seem so challenging.

Step 2 – plan what needs to be done

As a busy professional it is too easy to just get on with the billable work, but you need to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture. 

Contact your clients

I see accountants who are growing their businesses, even during this pandemic. It’s because they are making time to reach out to all of their clients to offer support, guidance or just a shoulder to carry on. 

Your clients may be feeling much worse than you right now. Many cannot see a way out of this, even with lockdown restrictions being eased a bit.

If you are too busy being busy, you’ll never be able to help them. They’ll be feeling left out, overlooked or not cared for. What do you think they will do as a result, when they have a bit more time on their hands?

Free up time

Plan how you can free up time.  Look at outsourcing, can you delegate, do you really need to do that set of accounts today?  If you can plan what you do, you’ll find some free time to start getting in touch with your clients and be able to prioritise the right jobs and get clarity.  Can your team help you?  Do they know how you feel?  Regular contact with your team will help you share the load and enable you to all be more efficient.

Step 3 – get a routine

At the moment many people are getting hammered by emails. 

Block out some time in your diary for processing emails and DO NOT look at emails outside of this time.  You then need to put on an autoresponder saying that you are checking emails twice a day because of the extra work and that you’ll get back within a specific time period. 

Everyone understands that things are crazy now, so will not be upset if you are honest.  This will then allow you to concentrate on things right now and get focused. 

Even better why not forward ALL your emails to a member of your team and they are to only send you emails that ONLY you can do.  How much time would that save you?

Reach out on social media

Other useful routines include regularly posting on social media. 

Your clients and prospects have more time on their hands so they are surfing the net. 

Are they seeing anything from you?  Social media keeps you front of mind and enables you to be in touch with many more people than just an email or phone call.  By setting aside a bit of time each day, you’ll be seen.

Step 4 – improve your processes

Ensure you have processes in place to make all these things work. 

Every time you do something, make sure that you follow a set path and write down what that process is. This then means you’ll find the quickest and easiest way to get the job done. 

With proper processes in place, anyone in your team can then do that job, rather than it just being YOU.  This way delegating becomes easier and as you take on new staff it is really easy for them to get productive and taking the weight off your shoulders.

Keep challenging everything that you do.  If you are repeating yourself is there someone in your practice that can do it for you?  Different signatures in your emails can save you from keeping typing the same thing over and over again.  What about looking at Zapier?  This clever app will automate many routine things that you do.

While you are in challenging mode, ask if there is anything you can you stop doing? 

If you write down a diary or journal of everything that you do today have a look at the end of the day to see where your time has been spent and then audit this to do something different tomorrow. 

Just the simple act of writing things down will get you questioning what you are doing and enable you to look at things with a different perspective.

Summary

By just following these simple steps you will start to find things getting easier and better.

I know it’s tough at the moment but there is much you can do by simply taking time to reflect. 

About the author

Ashley Leeds is the Head of Growth at The Accountants Millionaires Club where he works with practice owners to help them grow their business with less stress through coaching and advice that he has gleaned from working in the accounting space since 2007.

You connect with Ashley via LinkedIn.

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

Related articles